Game Backlog Update #4
Here’s another game I can cross off my list. The struggle continues!
I probably would have enjoyed Mafia II much more if I had played it when it came out. Perhaps starting it after playing a number of more recent open-world games was a mistake, as my expectations were unrealistically high. Mafia II was never going to surpass the likes of GTA V or The Witcher 3, but that’s the point, it was from a much older era of sandbox games and it hasn’t aged particularly well.
For its time, it was a perfectly acceptable open-world gangster game. The story was interesting enough, despite hitting the same beats as almost every other gangster tale. The setting was serviceable, big enough to feel significant but small enough to not feel like a bore to navigate. The controls were weighty and enjoyable. The driving felt smooth and the guns had a kick to them.
Unfortunately, Mafia II is very much a product of its time. While that might sound silly considering that it was only released in 2010, it’s hard not to see the limitations of sandbox games at that time. The setting, while adequately proportioned, lacks the detail required to make it feel “lived in”.
At no point did I feel compelled to explore the city as I had the unshakeable feeling that there was nothing to find. It eventually became a chore to navigate. Instead of feeling like a rich sandbox, the open-world setting began to feel more like an excuse to prolong the time between missions just so NPCs could spout extra lines of exposition at you.
Mafia II is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. I just wish that I played it closer to its release date. If I had done so, perhaps I could look back at it more fondly.
So I’m really sorry Mafia II, I wanted to like you, but arriving late to the party made me see you as nothing more than a bland sandbox…
…Blandbox! I hope nobody has come up with that portmanteau before. You know what? I don’t even care if they have, I’m totes claiming it as mine.